Best & Brightest Special Report: B-to-b expertise makes Keck valued commodity

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John Marshall Keck began his career in b-to-b advertising in the early 1980s, when b-to-b "wasn't as cool." At the time, most of his peers at Hutchins/Young & Rubicam in Rochester, N.Y., wanted to be involved in sexy, high-profile consumer campaigns. But he found a fondness for the b-to-b space and developed an early expertise.

"Business-to-business was really coming into its own then," said Keck, 48. "We were trying to bring credibility to the field. At most agencies, b-to-b was pushed over in the corner and nobody cared about it."

Fast forward to a new generation, and the rise of the Internet has spurred the b-to-b space into one of the hottest sectors of the new economy. Suddenly, Keck's deep knowledge of the field became a much-needed asset for every major advertising outfit.

Today, he leads FCB Worldwide's interactive campaigns for clients such as Compaq Computer Corp. and Avaya Inc. He also created memorable b-to-b media strategies for 3Com Corp. and its popular Palms before resigning the account. "It's one of the most exciting times in the business-to-business space I've had," he said.

For Compaq, Keck has the challenge of elevating one of the world's largest computer manufacturers back into the same light as its strongest competitors- namely IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Computer Corp. Despite its size, Compaq seems to have lost its presence among many information technology decision-makers, Keck said. The solution? Putting Compaq's message in front of the people who matter most in the most relevant fashion.

On the Web, that meant sponsoring "advertorials" in online business publications and creating banner ads that don't send users into the Internet ether. And in several cases, Keck's team has purchased every banner and every button on particular sites to create a Compaq "roadblock."

"The businessperson is on the Web to solve a problem," Keck said. "They need a solution quickly. The challenge for us is to understand how they are getting this information and how we can get really close to that point of sale."

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